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Board debates school features in Chambersburg

August 07, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - It will be years before a new Chambersburg Area Senior High School is built, or the existing one expanded, but the school board Wednesday night was debating what will or will not be included when the project does get under way.

In July, Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael presented the board with a set of educational specifications drawn up by the high school's department heads. The document represents what that group believes the school needs to meet its educational goals.

The first question the board wants answered is whether all or some of those requests can fit on the 37 acres that make up the present campus and property the district owns across the street.

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"I don't think I can go for three gymnasiums," Director Craig Musser said of plans for two auxiliary gyms in addition to the main gym. Principal Barry Purvis said some teams have to wait until 8 p.m. or later to get practice time on the present court.

Other board members questioned the need for a swimming pool, because the district's swimming programs are run in partnership with the nearby YMCA.

"Actually, the Y would like us to build our own pool" because its own is so heavily used, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

Members also discussed the pros and cons of artificial turf on the football field, which would allow it to be used by more teams for both practices and games than a natural grass field.

As far as instructional space, Musser said the specifications included more teacher conference spaces and meeting rooms than he considers necessary.

The specifications also include agriculture mechanics and agriculture education land labs, classes Board President Stanley Helman said might be more appropriate for the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

"What have we spent the most time talking about tonight? ABCs? No. Extracurriculars," said Director Harold Fosnot. He said the district owns enough land around the Chambersburg area to provide playing fields for all teams.

The land, he said, included about 250 acres the district received free from Letterkenny Army Depot several years ago.

"The perception that there is not enough space here is false," Director Eugene Gayman said of the 37-acre site. Director Penny Stoner agreed, saying the district owns it and it is already served by water, sewer, electric and gas utilities.

Earlier this year, the board approved spending $50,000 on a study to determine if a new or expanded high school could be built in town. The board eventually will present a list of educational specifications to architects to see if it is feasible.

"We're basically going to say, 'Here are our parameters. Show us your stuff,'" Business Manager Rick Vensel said of the task the architects will face.

At this point, however, the board has come to no firm decision on what is the best course to follow. Some advocate building on the current site, while others want two high schools in another building at another location.

There is also support in the community for a comprehensive ninth through 12th grade school that would be built out of the borough.

The make up of the nine-member board will change when three new members are sworn in at the end of the year, which could affect any plans that are being laid now.

The current high school has 1,766 students in grades 10 through 12, according to district figures. Sponseller said the student population for grades nine through 12 will be more than 2,700 in 2012.

"The question is, do you want to put 3,000 kids in one school?" Sponseller said.

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